Over the course of my 30 years in the wedding industry, I have been lucky enough to say I have been a vendor in numerous shows and have also produced several. It seems businesses that are in the spotlight are best suited to succeed because of their direct participation in the show. To varying degrees this would include the Bridal Gown or Formal Wear businesses that were associated with a fashion show, a DJ or Band Showcase and Specialty cars, if they have access to park where everyone is walking in. The venue itself can also greatly benefit, if the couples that have yet to book their reception, are identified in some way for the banquet team to approach them.
For the vendors it is not always the same experience. At some bridal shows, vendors are challenged to attract the couples’ attention with noise, distraction, and time limitations.. Plus, follow-up can also be challenging. Only 20 years ago, phone calls were welcomed, and direct mail could make a visual impact. The Internet, however, has neutralized those strategies resulting in diminished returns. Therefore vendors have to hope they made enough of an impression to be remembered after the show, and try to follow up via email, social media or agreed-upon texting and phone calls.
The allure of the big bridal shows and being in front of 100’s to 1000’s of brides is hard to turn down. It is still the best place to get in front of the bridal audience and it accomplishes the important feat of getting the brides off their computer screens. That said, expectations must be managed because the shelf-life of interest, as well as the memory retention that is established at a booth at a busy bridal show, are sometimes hard to sustain.
Many members of BSPI, the largest organization of independently owned Bridal Show Producers, have been very creative in amending their format to factor in those challenges. Bridal Show Producers like Marc McIntosh of Wedding Experience have developed numerous other marketing strategies at their show and beyond to support their vendors.
Another thought is that when a vendor is an environment where they are exclusive, or where the bride-to-vendor ratio is favorable. 150 brides and 20 vendors can be a better environment for winning business that 500 brides and 125 vendors, where the couple are exposed to so much in a such a short time.
Brides Against Breast Cancer may have come up with a very interesting bridal show format based on two important premises:
1) They run sales of discontinued and gently used gowns in all price ranges in a much less overwhelming and much more balanced business environment where vendors are an important part of the landscape. Moreover, vendors are exclusive and have quality contact with the brides. There is no pressure to watch a fashion show or showcase. Lastly, brides are coming to the event in a buying mode wanting to accomplish a value purchase on a gown, which as vendors you can also expand to other services.
2) The events raise money for cancer. This is in turn elevates the purpose of the event and those vendors associated with the event. Brides and grooms feel good about purchasing from the vendors, and have a secondary reason to be in attendance making them more attentive.
All bridal show formats can generate success for their vendors. It is a just a matter of going within an awareness of what to expect and be prepared to make the most of the opportunities.